The round table sessions of the World Conference on Youth (WCY) 2014 began at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Convention Hall (BMICH) yesterday (May 7).
Youth Officer of UNAIDS Asia-Pacific Regional Support Team Mr. Aries Valeriano, the Regional Coordinator of the U.N. Asia Pacific Network of Young Key Populations Ms. Thaw Zin Aye and the Bangladesh Representative of the U.N. Population Fund Ms. Argentina Matavel were the key speakers during the session on “Empowering Marginalized Youth Including Most At-Risk Young People”.
The three speakers touched upon various issues relating to marginalized youth. Ms. Matavel spoke more on young people with disabilities taking examples of celebrities who are differently talented.
The speakers answered questions that were put across to them by the audience regarding youth prisoners, HIV-affected youth, disabled youth obtaining access to public places, and medical care for youth in African countries.
Youth Activist Mr. John Loughton started the session of “Realizing Peace, Reconciliation and Ending Violence” recalling the speech of the President Rajapaksa at the opening ceremony of WCY, that how Sri Lankan government defeated terrorism and brought peace and reconciliation. In his remarks, Mr. Loughton said that conflict and violence hit women and youth the hardest, and even though reconciliation is talked about much, conflict prevention is better.
He also said he passionately believes that young people must be at the heart of any genuine, long-term, sustainable solutions to conflict. “I fundamentally believe that conflict at its extreme form is extremely preventable,” he stressed.
Mr. Nalaka Gunawardene, a journalist from Sri Lanka speaking, “One thing that has happened over the last few decades is that violence has become more sophisticated and insidious.”
Mr. Gunawardene further explained the term structural violence and its history. “It is a civil war that lasted over 25 years. As a diverse nation, as a pluralistic society, the end of war elicited many different emotions among our people. One sentiment, though, that many of us shared irrespective of other concerns is the sense of relief, and some of us also felt the need of responsibility.”
On Sri Lanka’s reconciliation process, he said “We know that the peace is much more than simple absence of fighting or combat or gun fire. Likewise, I'd suggest that reconciliation retains much more than co-existence of two groups who were formerly in a conflict.”
Ms. Sandra Tesch Wilkins from Red Cross Red Crescent Youth explained the mechanism of her organization when promoting human dignities and peace in 198 countries. She added that there are 15 million Red Cross volunteers all over the world, who are young, or under 30 years old.